ImageLaunched in September last year as Rs 300-crore innovative programme, the OSDD has already enrolled 530 members to join the combined research in the first phase where affordable anti-TB drug has to be developed, sources said. There are over 50 projects already have been posted online so far by scientists from various research institutes, universities and industry open for collaboration.

OSDD is a CSIR led consortium with global partnership with a vision to provide affordable healthcare to all and especially to the weaker sections of global populations. It draws inspiration from the success of open source movements in software and the Human Genome Sequencing Project. CSIR launched the project, with Rs 150 crore from the government and an equal amount from international organisations, as a viable alternate model for drug discovery with the help of voluntary researchers.

"Market forces discourage big pharmaceutical companies from developing drugs for infectious diseases that affect the developing world since such projects have long gestation period, heavy Research and Development (R&D) costs and low success rate. Even when successful, the returns are low since these diseases generally afflict the poorer sections of the society. It is estimated that only about one per cent of newly developed drugs are for tropical diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, lymphatic filariasis, dengue, leishmaniasis (kala-azar), etc. The traditional patent driven model, valuable in many fields, has failed to drive research and development of drugs for diseases affecting the developing world,'' an official of the CSIR said.

While silico tests are done as part of the project, laboratory experiments will be carried at CSIR-sponsored labs. The current project is aimed at developing drugs against both drug resistant and latent tuberculosis, which has been identified as one of the major global threats killing three people in every two minutes across the world. Of the 1,556 new chemical entities marketed worldwide, between 1975 and 2004, only three were for TB. The presently used drugs- Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol- with standard therapeutic duration of 6-9 months, require careful monitoring if drug resistance is to be avoided, sources said, explaining the reason for taking up TB as first targeted disease.

CSIR is exploring the possibility of tying up with banks to add incentive features to the cards issued to OSDD members. In the Eleventh Plan, CSIR has earmarked Rs 150 crore for the OSDD project. An equivalent amount of funding is expected to be raised from international agencies and philanthropists. About Rs 46 crore has been already released by CSIR for this project.

The current partners include Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB, Delhi), Institute of Microbial Technology (IMT, Chandigarh), Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI, Lucknow), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, Delhi), Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD, Hyderabad), National JALMA Institute of Leprosy and other Mycobacterial Diseases (JALMA, ICMR, Agra), Anna University – K B Chandrasekhar (AU-KBC, Chennai), Cambia (Australia), Institute of Life Sciences (ILS, Hyderabad), Sun microsystems (India), LeadInvent (Delhi), Jalaja Technologies, TCG LifeSciences (Kolkata).